You will find dynamic leaders in every form of art. They are people who move things forward, people who always orient their energy to the future—to the next generation of doers and thinkers. These leaders don’t only exist in the moment. They don’t stay where they are, because they are always moving forward, growing, and innovating. Sometimes it’s their work that gives them notoriety, and other times it’s who they are as a person. For Mimi G, it’s both.
Mimi G is a force in the sewing community. For a craft that mostly takes place in the home, it’s hard to imagine a more recognizable face and effervescent personality. Her projects are so widespread, you might wonder how she still has time to sit at her sewing machine—but she does.
If you haven’t yet come across one of Mimi G’s patterns, classes, sewalongs, meet-and-greets, YouTube videos, lifestyle blogs, or signature handmade outfits, then you are about to get a new friend in the sewing community!
Since she first started her blog in 2012, Mimi G has bared her personal life alongside her brand, as she grew into an award-winning designer and DIY-influencer, and her followers grew from a few to hundreds of thousands. That’s a lot to handle in a few years. We had some important questions for Mimi G, and she gave us important answers. Read on!
How Did This All Start?
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you realize that you loved making clothes?
I was twelve years old. I spent my summers in Puerto Rico with my dad, and that’s when I realized how much I loved sewing. My aunt was a seamstress, and during my summers I would spend most of my days sitting in her studio. I started by hand sewing my Barbie clothes, and when my dad realized I had a real interest, he bought me my first Kenmore sewing machine.
My aunt never really had time to teach me, but I am a visual learner, so I just sat and watched her create these fabulous formal gowns. I started tracing off clothes I had and sometimes even cutting them up and tracing off the pieces, which is how I taught myself construction; it helped me understand how the pieces went together, much like a puzzle. I have dabbled in a ton of crafts—I even did a tiny bit of quilting—but I love sewing clothing I can wear and show off, so that is where my focus has been.
When did you know that you wanted to make sewing more than just a personal craft?
It took many years and honestly it was just something that happened. In 2012 I started a DIY blog as a hobby. I wanted to share what I was sewing and wearing. I didn’t know how many people would care, but it was an outlet for me. I had been working in film and production for 16 years and had found myself struggling to pay bills, was feeling a bit empty as if something was missing, and although my job allowed me to travel and meet celebrities, and sometimes even attend a fancy event, I found myself dreading going into work every day.
Starting the blog was my way of getting back to what I remembered made me happy—sewing. After the first year of blogging, I was amazed at how quickly my following was growing and that I could foreseeably make some extra cash from this blog I had started.
After making the regal maxi skirt and having so many people ask me to make it for them, I thought, what if I teach them to make it instead? Since I don’t enjoy sewing for hire, this was the next best thing. When I created my first sewing tutorial and put it up as a paid download—which by the way was no easy task in 2012—I was blown away by how many people were purchasing the download. I realized shortly after that I was onto something, that was the beginning of Mimi G Style and video tutorials.
And when did you know that you had tapped into the power of sewing and creating? In other words, when did your relationship to the sewing community begin to grow? Did you ever think it could get this big?
My relationship with the sewing community has grown so much in such a short time, and I am so grateful for that. It has allowed me to figure out what works in my business and what doesn’t.
I realized just how powerful it was when I did my first sewing conference here in LA; it was crazy to me that women were coming from all over just to spend the weekend with me. After that first weekend, I knew that this was something special and I was just along for the ride. I never imagined it would grow to this size then, but now I feel like it’s just the beginning. I have so much more that I want to share and build that I am excited to keep going.
We have no choice but to keep our community thriving if we’re going to make sure the next generation of makers have what we have now. To go from no following to millions in just a few short years still blows my mind, but what I have learned is that if you do something you love and earnestly share it, the universe gives you more of that. I love teaching, and I love giving back, and I think people who follow me know that and support my brand and me. I am so grateful every day to have this opportunity.
“I realized just how powerful it was when I did my first sewing conference here in LA; it was crazy to me that women were coming from all over just to spend the weekend with me. After that first weekend, I knew that this was something special and I was just along for the ride.”
Do you have a favorite platform for talking about sewing with the community? What energizes you the most—Instagram, YouTube, in-person events, something else?
I am an Instagram junkie! I love IG, and every time they add a new feature I fall in love again, lol. I love YouTube because it allows me to do more in-depth videos and it becomes sort of like your own TV channel, but Instagram allows me to connect and engage so much faster and gives everyone a behind-the-scenes look at my life.
My business is all visual so IG is the perfect place for that. Now with the addition of IGTV I am really thrilled! Now I can create new content for this new format, and that is what promotes growth of any channel—unique and consistent content.
Nothing beats in-person events, and after six great sewing conferences, I have come to know how powerful it is to be in a room with people who are just as nuts as you are about sewing, there is no other feeling.
Facebook for me is more business, more straightforward, but IG allows me to play and have fun. I also really love Pinterest, and I tell people all the time that my number one platform for growth is Pinterest, hands down.
Leading a Community
You are very present in the sewing community, from social media to the format of your online courses and Sew It! Academy. Everyone recognizes you! Why is it important that your customers and followers get to know you as a person? Has this ever been challenging for you? How have you faced those challenges?
When I first started blogging and getting on social media, I never imagined I would be here, so sharing my personal life seemed ok. But when it explodes and you find yourself becoming “internet famous,” that feeling changes a bit. I wouldn’t change now, because I think that is what created the relationship I have with my followers—I was really open about my life, my kids, my husband at the time, and I think that allowed people to connect with me.
I talked about being a teen mom, about being homeless in LA, about being a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, and about wanting to give my kids a better life. I wanted people to know I was a regular mom and wife just trying to get by and that was relatable. I certainly did not expect this kind of recognition so I would be lying if I said that I haven’t changed anything, because I have.
It is very difficult to be watched and to have personal aspects of your life so public, but it is especially hard to have to refrain from responding, defending, explaining when people make their own assumptions. But that comes with the territory.
When I went through my divorce, I really took a step back and had to make a choice to share less. I went through a challenging few years and because I didn’t talk about it, post about it, announce it, it made people more curious, but I had to protect my kids, and I think that changed things for me. After that experience, I knew that I had to be a bit more careful about what aspects of my personal life I shared. I have also had a ton of fake accounts created where they use pictures of my kids and that is always crazy to me, so I started limiting how many images of the kids I share.
I love sharing and I want everyone to know that I don’t look like my blog pics every day. I want them to know that I struggle with weight, self-confidence, anxiety, sleepiness, moments of depression, and all those crazy feelings we all have. I am human and there is nothing special about what I do, I just really love to do it and that resonates with people. When I speak about starting a business or growing social media accounts, I always tell people to be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly when you make your life public—but it’s so worth it to me when I look at what I have created.
You’ve made many connections throughout your career so far. Who are some of the people that touched you the most? What lessons did you learn from them?
I don’t think I could choose. Honestly, I receive hundreds of messages a month from women and men all over the world who share their personal struggles with me. I realized early on that although my blog was about sewing and creating, it was also about community and inspiration. It became a vehicle for motivation and encouragement, and because of how open I have been about my life, it gave people the courage to share their hardships with me.
I get an email every day from someone who says I have touched their life in some way, and all I can think as I am reading it is how much they affect my life by trusting me with their story. I have met thousands of followers over the years, and when I am at Target or the grocery store, and someone recognizes me and says hello or hugs me, I literally burst on the inside. It means so much to me that I have had this impact on so many, but truly they are what keeps me going when I don’t feel like taking pics, or filming, or getting on a call with a brand, or speaking at an event. They are the reason I continue. My followers inspire me more than they will ever know!
Mimi G Style
When you started to sew your own clothes, did your personal style change at all? Now that you can control your fabric choices, do you make different decisions than when purchasing RTW clothing?
My style has certainly evolved over the years. When I look back at old blog pics from when I started I laugh so hard! I always think “what the hell was I wearing” LOL. I think style is ever-changing and sometimes I feel girly, and sometimes I don’t.
Sewing allows me to change as my mood changes so I never feel like I have a closet full of clothes I don’t like. Instead, it’s just a manic wardrobe with a ton of styles that fit my many moods. Overall, I think everyone has a certain go-to, never-changing style that they could wear every day, and for me, that is a good pair of jeans and a T-shirt, I could wear it every day and pretty much do unless I have a meeting or have to take pics. I shop RTW too, but it does get hard to do when you look at fast fashion and know you could make it better. Sewing makes you expect more from RTW, which I think helps you to be more selective about what you buy.
Do you have a favorite type of fabric to work with? What about a fabric you won’t let near your sewing machine?
I love knits! I love all kinds of knits and have been known for making woven-designed patterns out of a knit and vice versa, but I also love flowy fabrics like rayons and silky prints. The only thing I don’t like to sew with is fur—it’s such a pain in the ass and the fur goes everywhere and just tickles my nose. I just won’t do it. I am pretty basic when it comes to fabrics I use because I know what works for most of the garments I like to wear. My go-to fabrics are always knits, rayons, cotton and stretch wovens.
Who are some of your biggest influences in the sewing community? Are there blogs, pattern makers, or designers that you love to follow?
There are so many! I mean our community is pretty badass, and I follow a ton of people. I am a huge fan of Closet Case patterns, Brittany J Jones, who is a great blogger and friend. I love Pretty Girls Sew, a community of bloggers and makers of color—and of course Norris Ford, who is my most impressive student and boyfriend. Shortly after we started dating, he said he wanted to learn to sew, so I began teaching him, and now he makes his own suits—he is my prodigy.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with your sewing projects? If so, what did you do to bring the joy back into your sewing?
Yes, all the time! I have a great team who really helps me keep everything together. I always made sure that I kept the sewing aspect of my business still very much a hobby. I delegate busy work and set time to sew projects at home. I have a 1,200-square-foot office where most everything gets done, but I set up a home office so that I could sew there. That helps make it feel like my hobby and not work. When I sew at the office, it always feels like work.
The Best of Mimi G
- Instagram: You’ll find daily updates from Mimi G on Instagram.
- New Regal Maxi Skirt Tutorial: Mimi G’s very first step-by-step sewing tutorial has been reimagined for 2018.
- Step-by-Step Tutorials: You can purchase individual sewing lessons for popular patterns.
- Sewing for Mom: Mimi G’s family is a big part of her business, including her mom! She helped her mom alter a stellar vintage DVF dress.
- Sew It! Academy: These video courses are designed to help you take your sewing to the next level.
- Simplicity Special Collections: Mimi G creations for Simplicity are always a hit.
- Mimi G Style YouTube Channel: Updated weekly, these videos cover collection tours, DIY tutorials, pattern hauls, sewalongs, and peeks at her studio and home life. Don’t miss her closet tour!
Where do you get all of your ideas for pattern hacks? How do you gather fashion inspiration?
I don’t know! I think my mind is always thinking about new content to create, so I spend a lot of time looking through fashion magazines, Pinterest boards, vintage style books, and I do a lot of people watching. I get a ton of inspiration from so many places; my phone is full of inspiration pics. I like to make the most of each pattern I buy, even the ones I design for Simplicity, so I try to come up with at least two hacks per pattern.
For someone who is just starting to sew their wardrobe, can you share a tip for finding your own authentic style?
I tell women all the time that there are pieces hanging in their closet that they always reach for—they make them feel good, comfortable, sexy, etc. Whatever those pieces are, that is their authentic style. I love being bold and trying new silhouettes, but if you want a closet full of clothes you love wearing, look at the most-worn pieces in your closet and copy those shapes, fabrics, and colors.
The Future of Sewing
How do you see DIY and sewing evolving in the future? What excites you the most? How do you want to be a part of it?
We live in a culture of art, self-expression, individuality, and boldness. The current generation is no longer interested in looking like everyone else just because something is trending; they want to take those trends and add their own vibe and style to them. DIY allows them to do that.
Women and men are tired of not finding clothing that flatters them because its made for a size zero with straight hips, or is not age appropriate or available in plus sizes or tall sizes, which is why so many of my followers and students have never sewn before but are willing to learn so they can take control. I don’t see that going away anytime soon. In fact, I think it will get bigger, and people will be even more interested in doing it themselves, no matter what it is. I want to continue to be the leading influence in our community by developing even greater ways to attract new sewists.